THE SAD STORY OF HIV IN THE PHILIPPINE WORKPLACE
A majority of the companies in the Philippines with thousands of employees in their care do not have HIV IN THE WORKPLACE programs streamlined for their employees.
A very few companies in the Philippines cover their employees with a heath benefit through an HMO, or a Health Maintenance Organization.
HMOs in the Philippines do not cover HIV related issues by default.
In 2010, the Department of Labor issued guidelines on HIV in the workplace for both employees and employers.
The Philippine National AIDS Council has issued guidelines on HIV & AIDS through the Republic Act 8504 in 1998.
SOME COMPANIES PAY FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES’ COVERAGE
We have heard a handful of companies which cover HIV in their HMOs (24/7 & ADP, for example). The way we see it, the major HMO players in the country do not cover HIVs by default, and yet these companies were able to cover their employees. Assumption is they paid extra premium to cover their employees. Assumption is they care for the health of their employees. Some even come up with Assumptions that HMO Bidding can coerce HIV Coverage for the bigger companies.
Towers Watson, a business process outsource (BPO) company based at the Bonifacio Global City, has internally released a communication that the management fully supports its employees living with HIV & AIDS.
Accenture, another BPO in the Philippines, has HIV programs in the workplace.
ADVANTAGES OF COMPANY HMOs COVERING HIV
- People have the impression that they will get discriminated by their management, covering HIV will show that the company supports People living with HIV.
- This will encourage HIV testing among the employees knowing that they ware covered by their HMOs.
- PLHIVs with good health conditions can live normal lives and perform day-to-day activities like other people in the community, this will encourage people to apply to companies covering HIV & AIDS.
- PLHIVs can proactively consult doctors on any health related issues since their HMO is readily accessible for them; they do not have to go to their treatment hub for consultations.
- Employee Retention.
SO WE HAVE GUIDELINES FROM THE GOVERNMENT.
And yet the companies fail to implement them. Nor does the government conduct checks whether or not they are implemented. Sad as it may seem, a lot of bigger companies do not have HIV information and prevention programs in place.
And HIV being singled out of HMO coverages? Is this not a form of discrimination?
ORGANIZATIONS THAT CAN HELP
There are a lot of organizations working on HIV & AIDS that various companies can access so they can implement HIV in the Workplace protocols. Sadly, only a few of these organizations are able to gain networks with companies. Most companies do not have HIV education and prevention as a priority in their workplace.
FEAR IN THE WORKPLACE
The sheer lack of HIV programs in the workplace creates an atmosphere of exclusion and misunderstanding. It indirectly promotes discrimination in the workplace and a lot of out companies in the Philippines unfortunately do not see the urgency of the issue. A lack of education in the workplace increases the stigma as more and more people do not have access to basic HIV information.
The lack of HIV programs in the workplace is a clear show of poor response to the epidemic.
The lack of HIV programs in the workplace is just sad. And Pathetic.
Fear of HIV is driven by the lack, if not the absence of understanding. People fear HIV as if it’s air-borne.
People fear because they do not know.
EDUCATION IN THE WORKPLACE
What is so far a big miss is the fact that education in the workplace will promote a better quality of life for the PLHIV community & those affected by HIV & AIDS.
The fact is WE ALL are affected by HIV & AIDS
We don’t need to have a relative, a friend or a loved one infected with HIV to be classified as “Affected by HIV & AIDS”. Work is affected when someone is left undiagnosed and untreated. Relationships get affected by the ignorance of HIV & AIDS.
The ignorance that lurks in the dark alleys of of an ignorant mind will lead to more infection. And more stigma.
The epidemic that is out there will keep on finding its own network. it will link itself from one community o another, from one minority to another, from one person to another.
A CALL FOR ACTION
Companies pride themselves in being “Diversity centered”. Some even compete for Disable Friendly Facilities awards. Companies spend for sports and events. Companies have Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) programs to promote “giving back to the community”.
I call on these companies to help us eradicate HIV and AIDS, if not the disease, the stigma and the lack of understanding thereof.
I dare my government to step up its game and demand for the implementation of the RA8054 and the Labor department’s guidelines on HIV in the workplace.
I ask the LGBT & CSR groups in companies to reach out to their management and ask for HIV in the Workplace programs.
I request for the Personnel Management of the Philippines (PMAP) to look into this issue.
Where are we right now?
We have thousands of HIV & AIDS advocates and activists out there. But we have millions to cover in our country alone.
What do we have? A constantly growing epidemic that’s hardly felt or understood by many.
We always talk about human rights. HIV Education and Prevention program is YOUR right! It’s everyone’s right.
We need help. We all need help.
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